I was a little excited to finally start the next bread of the BBA Challenge – Ciabatta. Many bakers of the challenge were complaining the ciabatta didn’t turn out so perfectly because there weren’t enough holes, so I was wondering how mine would look like.
I decided to go for the poolish version (just because it was the first version in the book). I made the poolish the night before. The next day I mixed all the ingredients as stated in the book and then transferred the dough to a flour bed on the counter. I could not imagine that the stretch-and-fold method would work at all with this wet and sticky dough (I had used almost the maximum amount of water), so I read and re-read and re-read Nicole’s instructions again and again and tried to combine those pictures with the pictures shown in the book so I would have a good instruction in my mind’s eye. And yes, it did work – I was totally surprised at how nicely the dough stretched out. There was no problem with folding it, either. I let the dough rest for 30 minutes and it rose like crazy. I stretched and folded it again, and fermented it for 90 minutes. It definitely more than doubled in size during that time.
Then it got tricky. How would I divide the dough into 3 rectangles without degassing the dough? Virtually impossible. I tried my best, but was not really successful. I carefully put the 3 pieces on a pan with baking paper, folded them into oblongs and simulated a couche by putting rolled-up dish towels between the pieces. I proofed them for another 45 minutes and the dough DID noticeably swell again.
I then lifted the pieces from each end and tugged them out a little longer and put the pan with the loaves in the preheated oven. I even tried the whole hearth baking thing (hot water in the steam pan and spraying the side walls of the oven with water for a couple times, even though I was REALLY concerned I would demolish my oven). But when I took them out of the oven I was really proud of the result:
The loaves definitely looked like ciabatta, they smelled like ciabatta and they DID taste like ciabatta. The flavor was GREAT and everybody was saying it was like a baker’s ciabatta – and since I live in Germany and we probably have the best bread in the world ;o) I take this as a compliment. The only issue I had with the result: the holes were definitely not big enough. This is probably due to my inability to divide the dough without degassing it. Will work on that because the Ciabatta is a bread I WILL make again!